Global Agenda Council on Urbanization 2012-2014
The growth of cities and unprecedented rural-to-urban migration throughout Asia, Latin America and parts of Africa are frequently cited as defining global trends of the 21st century. While urban growth often conjures up images of shiny skyscrapers and fast-moving transit systems, the truth is that these emerging areas are not postcard cities. Rather, the “face” of the trend is marked by informal settlements, or slums, on the periphery of urban centres, and the informal economy.
Informal settlements result from the inability of governments to provide adequate infrastructure services for incoming or existing residents, and to create functional markets that generate housing opportunities. Informal settlements are thus a coping mechanism whereby residents fulfil their basic housing and infrastructure needs themselves, outside of the legal realm. The health and environmental conditions are usually dire: fewer than 35% of cities in developing countries have treated wastewater and half of solid waste within most cities in low- and middle-income countries is not collected.
Access to economic opportunity tends to be slim in informal settlements, making the informal economy the dominant lifeline. Residents lack easy access to road and public transportation networks or face arduous commutes, while the lack of legal residences creates a barrier to obtaining jobs in the formal sector.
What the Council is doing about it
The Global Agenda Council on Urbanization recognizes that informality has negative and positive sides. On the one hand, informal settlements and the informal economy are coping mechanisms in the absence of functional civil and economic institutions. Yet they also represent an impressive display of entrepreneurship and job creation at the hands of people. Many quality of life and business innovations have been born on the edge of legality when government has not seen or intentionally ignored informal settlements and commerce.
The Council has been working on identifying best practices from communities around the world in addressing the vulnerabilities of informal settlements and the informal economy, and best practices to unlock the positive externalities – be they at the hands of residents, companies or government.
“While urban growth often conjures up images of shiny skyscrapers and fast-moving transit systems, the truth is that these emerging areas are not postcard cities.”
Looking ahead, these best practices will be showcased in an innovatively formatted publication, called Urban Anthologies Volume II: Addressing Informality. The Council will share the publication with mayors, civic institutions and business leaders through the World Economic Forum network and via the Network of Global Agenda Councils. This publication builds on the Council’s work in 2011-2012, which resulted in Urban Anthologies Volume I: Learning from Our Cities.
To get involved please contact
Research Analyst: Lina Boren, Senior Associate, Global Agenda Councils, email@example.com
Council Manager: Robin Ried, Associate Director, Head of Urban Development, firstname.lastname@example.org
Forum Lead: Martina Gmür, Senior Director, Head of the Network of Global Agenda Councils, email@example.com
Document archive for all the issues you are interested in
- Transforming Urban Transportation: How Will It Be Done?
- Urbanization: The Unstoppable Global Trend
- The Emergence of "Rurban" India: Shaping Next Generation Cities
- Confronting the African Urban Challenge
- Globalization in the Urban Century
- Scenarios Series: Managing Urbanization in the Middle East
- SlimCity -- Managing Urbanization
- The Rise of Megacities
- Urban Renewal: How Cities Are Aiming for Sustainable Growth